Asunder by Ellen Akerman

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This story must be told, that of a young girl, not taken but ripped from her mother’s arms. A mother following instinct to protect her daughter, to find safety, a place without fear of death.

This mother, witness to murder, inside a spring day while the birds sang of new hungry babies, opening wide beaks in the nest. Blood soaked clothes on her husband’s still warm body. Flies buzzing and landing.

Diego, who wanted no part of the cartel.

Her friend since childhood in this small Honduran village.

Only one day before, Diego’s brother gave him a basket to keep.

“Do this for me manito, I beg you please keep it safe. Only one day.”

Maria and Diego knew of neighbours disappearing, later found filled with bullet holes or hanging from bridges, never dreaming this could happen to them.

Maria and her hija, Juanita would also be lying in front of their casa with Diego but this morning they followed the morning bells that called from the pink church up the cobblestone road.

Maria’s body shook with muffled sobs as she held Juanita in a tight hug. She knew she had to pull her thoughts into a straight line. The guns would return. No grieving, no funeral.

“Juanita, get the blanket from mama and papa’s bed!”

A last loving gesture, hands shaking, gently covering Diego with the colourful blanket.

Maria ran into the small casa and filled a net bag with clothes. She lifted a chipped tile off the floor and from the hiding hole, removed a small cloth sack containing a fistful of lempira coins and tied it around her waist. She knew the dangers. Everyone knew.


“Diego, are you in heaven?

Can you see me now?

We rode La Bestia (the Beast) without you. Riding on the train’s metal back in the hot sun and cold nights. There were many and we became like family taking care of each other. Juanita carries your brave heart. Nothing to eat for three days. Then a milagro! The stories are true! In a village in Mexico, women threw us bags filled with tortillas and frijoles. We caught bottles of water. We shouted and grabbed to catch them. One boy fell, we held our breath and all our eyes watched as he crawled off the tracks.

A young man shouted, “He will die!”

An old man whispered, “He will live!”

Diego, if you are with the Lord, beg him to watch over our Juanita. I don’t know if I will ever hold her again. A policia at the border grabbed her out of my arms. She did not cry out but I saw her eyes widen, at first with confusion and then fear. She looked at me then shut her eyes. And if the Lord is generous, ask him to help me be free from this room of metal bars and place of tears.”

News Story: Somewhere in the USA

Officer, “I am going to take your child for a bath.”

Mother, “Donde está mi hija?” (Where is my daughter?)

Other officer, “You won’t be seeing your child again.”

Sobs, moaning bounce off the high ceilings in this warehouse named Ursula Facility that was once a Walmart in McAllen, Texas. Only a year ago, local McAllen families walked up and down the aisles looking for back to school clothes, boxes of rainbow coloured crayons, super hero pencil cases and new running shoes. Excited voices chattering, “Can I get this?, “I love this, can I get this for my lunch?”, “You’ve grown so much, let’s see what size fits!”, “Now how many notebooks did the list say?”

The worn tile floor is marked by lines and holes where shelves and display cases once stood filled with Christmas toys on the left for boys and extra aisles for girls where baby dolls and Barbies had their own rows. Down the middle, shiny red and blue bikes, BMX racers had hung from the ceiling just high enough for an adult to check the price.

Now the aisles have rows of rectangular fenced sections, each with a locked chain link gate, the kind used in backyards to keep children and pets safely in their play area. Is it night or day? The flourescent lights overhead glow, a perpetual moonlight. Shapes of small bodies covered in silver foil blankets, toss and turn.

Small coughs, sniffles and intermittent crying break through the hum from the blinking lights stubbornly flickering but not burning out. A young girl with two black, unraveling braids, stands at her gate.

She cries, “Mama, tengo que hacer pipí!” (I have to go pee!)

A man voice shouts, “Guarda silencio!”

Suddenly, crying becomes a chorus of howls, a desperate chorus bouncing from one end of the warehouse to the other and if one listens carefully, a slow cracking echo of small hearts breaking. The sounds fade as dawn arrives in the parking lot, where ten employees dressed as security guards line up for the next shift.


Ellen Akerman

Ellen Akerman feels fortunate to have lived in the world of children, teaching for thirty years in Ontario, Canada. During her years of teaching and parenting she managed to squeeze in some writing courses. As a snowbird in Mexico, Ellen finds inspiration, yoga-ing, learning Spanish, painting, eating mangoes and dancing wherever music is playing. She recently published her first book, Buddy’s Story, a fictional memoir based on the life of her uncle, Bernard Akerman born in 1920 with cerebral palsy. He is given a voice to tell his story. Ellen has come to realize that she needs to write about what makes her heart ache, possibly opening the hearts of others.

If you enjoyed ‘Asunder’ leave a comment and let Ellen know.

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Photo by Martinique

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